Kansas powers past Northern Colorado, Western Illinois
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas softball opened the Rock Chalk Challenge with a pair of resounding wins over Northern Colorado, 8-3, and Western Illinois, 8-0 in six innings, during a picturesque day at Arrocha Ballpark on Thursday.
Kansas (19-5) was led by a middle of the lineup that was firing on all cylinders during both games. Five-spot hitter Shelby Gayre, six-spot hitter Erin McGinley and seven-spot hitter Sam Dellinger combined for nine of KU’s 18 RBIs and 11 of KU’s 23 hits. Gayre, KU’s starting freshman shortstop, led the pack with five hits, three RBIs and five runs scored during the Jayhawks’ pair of victories.
“Having the middle of our lineup perform this way is great because our top of the order is consistently getting on base,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “With Shelby , Erin and Sam being there in the middle, it makes our team really tough to stop.”
After Gayre drew an 11-pitch walk in the second inning against Nothern Colorado, Dellinger got Kansas on the board with a two-run home run past the left field fence, giving KU a 2-0 lead.
“In the first game against Nothern Colorado, we knew we were facing a tough pitcher in Valerie Vidal,” Smith said. “She has good numbers and has had a lot of good performances this season, so for Sam to step in and hit a two-run home run sent a message that we are going to be successful. Sam sparking us let everyone relax a little bit and we started to see our offense takeoff after that happened.”
And takeoff the Jayhawks offense did, as freshman Tarin Travieso led off the third inning by sending her first pitch deep past the right-center fense to give KU a 3-0 lead.
The Bears tied the contest, 3-3, after a three-run fourth inning — the only runs allowed during Andie Formby’s (8-2) complete-game victory in the circle.
Kansas scored four runs in the fifth and one run in the sixth to close out the 8-3 victory. McGinley drove in a pair of those late runs with two RBI doubles in the fifth and sixth innings.
Junior outfielder Emily Bermel, starting in right field for the first time this season, drew a fifth-inning RBI walk and freshman centerfielder Brittany Jackson recorded a two-RBI single in the fifth to put the icying on the cake for KU’s first victory of the day.
In game two of the day against Western Illinois, senior pitcher Sarah Miller (5-2) tossed 5.0 shutout innings, allowing KU’s offense to flourish during the 8-0 victory.
Dellinger and Bermel notched both knotched RBI singles in the second inning to put Kansas on the board early, 2-0. Dellinger drove in her second run of the day in the third inning to give KU a 3-0 lead.
Gayre became KU’s home runs leader with her fifth long ball of the season in the fifth inning.
Senior Annie Mehringer led off the bottom of the sixth inning and did not disappoint, hitting her first home run as a Jayhawk to give Kansas a 5-0 lead. Kansas would add three more runs to reach the run rule threshold on an RBI single by Harli Ridling and a bases-loaded walk-off double by Gayre to give KU the 8-0 win. Gayre’s walk-off double capped off a 3-for-3, three-RBI performance at the plate against the Leathernecks.
Kansas continues the Rock Chalk Challenge on Friday against Murray State. First pitch from Arrocha Ballpark at Rock Chalk Park is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
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